Tia Simanovic

PhD Student
University of Strathclyde

Working Title of PhD: Bereavement and imprisonment: an exploration of the experience of grief and loss prior to and during custody

 Year commenced PhD study: 2017 (Full-time)                             

Institution/Organisation: University of Strathclyde

 Funding Source: REA Scholarship           

 PhD Supervisors: Sally Paul, PhD and Beth Weaver, PhD


This study will examine prisoners’ experiences with grief prior to and during custody, as well as the coping mechanisms employed when dealing with bereavement in the institutional setting. Research has identified an association between unresolved grief, offending, and imprisonment; however, that link remains ill-understood and under-researched (Schetky, 1998; Vaswani, 2014). Processing of grief in settings, in which one is detached from natural support systems and bereavement rituals, such as in prisons, might be additionally hindered by the cultural, social, and institutional norms of acceptable behaviour. According to Vaswani (2014), imprisonment can interrupt grieving processes. This can manifest in ‘problematic’ behaviour in prison and impact prisoners’ prospects for reintegration on release (Vaswani, 2014). However, despite a burgeoning research interest in this area, little is known about prisoners’ experiences, the effects of the institutional setting, and the efforts and impacts of institutional responses (Hendry, 2009; Wilson, 2011). 

 The research questions are:

  1. What are prisoners’ experiences of bereavement prior to and during incarceration, and what effect does the prison context have on their experiences and processes of grieving?
  2. What, if any, bereavement supports exist within the prison setting and how are they experienced?
  3. What are the challenges and opportunities for providing bereavement support?
  4. How might bereavement support be developed?

Methodological approach:

This study will conduct a review of international theoretical, empirical, policy and practice evidence relating to the experience of bereavement for prisoners. It will then conduct in-depth interviews with prisoners and prison staff to explore the experience and impact of bereavement both prior to and during custody. Finally, this study will work with prisoners and prison staff on identifying possible practice innovation, and develop a theoretical framework to respond to bereavement experiences.


Bereavement, imprisonment, deprivation

List of relevant publications: